Beard History. Part 3: Ancient Greece & Alexander the Great October 2, 2014 17:01 1 Comment

 Poiseidon is one of many Greek Gods commonly pictured with a beard


Ancient Greece

The Ancient Greeks regarded the beard as symbol of masculinity and virility. In the  epic tales of writer Homer a beard had almost sanctified significance,  a common form of submission was to touch the beard of the person addressed.  During this time a beard was only shaven during mourning as a smooth face was seen as a sign of femininity. Greek beards were also frequently curled with tongs.

The Ancient Greek God Zeus, and his brother Poseidon, the god of the sea, are always pictured with beards. 

Greek soldiers of the time were famous for the care they took in their appearance before a battle, especially in preparing and caring for their beards before major battles. The  warrior Spartans of movie fame were known to punish weak soldiers cowards by shaving their beards.  



Greek philosophers Socrates & Plato

In Ancient Greek society Beards were very much in vogue, a healthy beard was a sign of wisdom and knowledge. Ancient Greek Philosophers such as Socrates & Plato thought beards to be superfluous discharge from a brain overcrowded with knowledge, the longer the beard the wiser the man. The most common hair color for  swarthy skinned Greeks was dark brown or black, due to it's rarity blond hair was considered to be a sign of great beauty. Menelaus, Achilles and Meleager are all depicted with blond hair and beards.  


Coinage with a clean shaven Alexander The Great 


Ancient Macedon

During the reign of Alexander the Great he forced his soldiers to shave as many Macedonians were killed by their great Persian enemies by grabbing The Macedonians by their long beards during combat.  

And so the custom of smooth shaving was introduced, a practice that spread from the Macedonians whose kings are represented on coins with smooth faces, throughout the whole known world of Alexander the Great's Macedonian Empire.

Many laws were attempted to be passed against the new clean shaven fashion with little effect. Great Greek philosopher Aristotle even conformed to the new clean shaven look, unlike most wise philosophers and scholars, who retained the beard as a badge of their great learning and wisdom.

A man with a beard after the Macedonian Empire period suggested a philosopher, there are many direct references to this custom latter clean shaven philosophers in such idioms as "The Beard does not make the Sage".